Young people from communities across Westmoreland have benefited from training to better prepare them to take up roles as future community leaders under the Social Development Commission’s (SDC) inaugural Young Educated Leaders, Lead (YELL) programme.
The initiative, which began in October, concluded on November 20 with a debate competition and closing ceremony at The Source in Savanna-la-Mar, under the theme ‘Youth…The Cornerstone of Nation-Building’.
The training programme sought to build leadership skills among the youth and included sessions in parliamentary procedure, team building, good citizenship, debate, and other activities.
Some participants were from the Youth Summer Employment Programme (YSEP), where 290 youngsters from the parish were engaged.
SDC’s Parish Manager for Westmoreland, Carolyn Brown-James, tells JIS News that young people must be motivated and empowered to step up and become leaders in their respective communities and parish.
She says that many of the current community leaders are elderly, and there is a need for succession planning.
“This training programme is an idea that came up when we saw the deficiencies in the parish of Westmoreland. Many of our leaders have served for many years, and they are now elderly persons. These young persons were trained to ensure that the leadership continues and that they succeed those who have served for many years,” she notes.
Mrs Brown-James notes that the training started on a virtual platform with 62 persons, and “39 of them participated consistently, and so they have now graduated”.
She says that with the YELL programme, “Westmoreland will be in better hands over time as the continuous training and grooming of these youngsters will position the parish as the epicentre of strong youth leadership in Jamaica”.
“We have leaders coming forward from all the areas in Westmoreland to represent their [communities] in a positive direction, where youths now see themselves as future leaders and work to ensure that leadership continues not only in Westmoreland but also in Jamaica” she adds.
During the YELL closing ceremony, participants were awarded certificates of participation, and they engaged in a friendly debate competition where they put their leadership skills on display.
The winning team received a trophy and a cash prize of $80,000, while the runner-up team received $50,000.
Micaela Smith of Darliston received awards for Most Outstanding Female in YELL and Best Speaker in the debate. Mario Clarke from Williams Hill District received the award for Most Outstanding Boy in YELL.
Micaela tells JIS News that having participated in YSEP, she felt compelled to pursue training under the YELL programme.
“It (YELL) was great. This programme was just another opportunity to better myself and to learn more,” she says.
“Overall, I gained more confidence, and the value of stepping out of my comfort zone and… learning more, which is going to allow me to help my community in whatever way I can,” she adds.
Mario, for his part, tells JIS News that he became involved in the YELL training programme to gain the tools necessary to transform his community positively.
“I want to be involved and to be a better me, develop my skills and develop my community. [YELL] helped me with my confidence. It helped me move towards other things, as I am also planning to create a youth club in my community. So, this was a good experience,” he says.
He tells JIS News that being named the Most Outstanding Boy is a testament to his commitment to change his parish, and he is urging other young Jamaican males to follow suit.
“I would recommend a programme like this to the wider Jamaica to occupy young males like myself in making progress and being productive. I have learned a lot that I can take back to help my community. It was a great experience, and I would do this again, anytime,” Mario says.